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Off the beaten track in Central Sulawesi

Sharon Karyasa
Sharon Karyasa

The Jakarta Post

Tobe | Wed, July 4, 2018 | 08:23 am
Off the beaten track in Central Sulawesi

Sound of the sea: The crystal clear water of Indah Beach in Lebo, Central Sulawesi. (JP/Sharon Karyasa)

A family wedding in Central Sulawesi turned out to be a visual feast, as our road trip took us into what seemed like unexplored territory.

The province boasts an abundance of natural diversity, splendour and cultural surprises, enchanting villages with picket fences and potted gardens, mountain ranges, azure beaches and awe-inspiring views.  

The visual panorama left me breathless, but I was curious about the absence of holidaymakers at Easter time. I later discovered we were traveling off the predictable tourist trail.

Commencing in Palu, we eventually ended up in the Togean Islands, where we slowly meandered on new wide bitumen roads. There was no hurry as we soaked up our surrounding geographical feast.  

Tobe is the name of the village where our family wedding would take place. My husband Made had told me years ago about his two brothers living in Tobe, Sulawesi. I became intrigued. Google maps gave me no information about the tiny dot in the middle of Central Sulawesi. 

The event, our nephew’s wedding, was an astounding cocktail of cultural and religious persuasions, lovingly united to celebrate the new generation of adults emerging from the transmigration program that my brother in laws bravely embarked on around thirty years previously.

The journey from Palu to Tobe was captivating, the mountain ranges were dotted with scenic rest points. Local entrepreneurs had erected fun signs pointing to selfie photo shoot locations, you could take a selfie souvenir of the panorama for only Rp 10,000 (70 US cents).

As we descended from the mountain, we were ready to take another turn away from the coastline, when I spied a blue horizon in the distance.

We detoured off course to discover Indah Beach, in the village of Lebo. Our pit stop turned out to be the perfect place for refreshments, the luscious freshly sliced mango I was served was the best I had tasted in my life. The trip was even more memorable, knowing that we were the only tourists enjoying the beautiful ocean view.

Religious diversity: A Hindu groom (left) and his Christian bride pose for pictures at their wedding, which served both halal food and non-halal dishes prepared in separate kitchens.Religious diversity: A Hindu groom (left) and his Christian bride pose for pictures at their wedding, which served both halal food and non-halal dishes prepared in separate kitchens. (JP/Sharon Karyasa)

A traditional Balinese wedding was to take place the following day after we arrived in Tobe. Family members and friends were busy preparing for the big day, cooking up a feast of the finest babi guling (suckling pig) in the district.

I was curious how it would all pan out as our Hindu nephew was marrying his Christian bride. The wedding turned out to be a harmonic blend of religious and cultural persuasions, united in love in a picturesque village at the foothills of the breathtaking Blue Mountains.

I was pleasantly surprised that consideration had been made for all guests, two kitchens had been organized to serve food. In addition to the traditional Balinese feast, the host also provided halal mouth-watering local delicacies, more proof that cultural diversity is celebrated in the district.

Pride of the tribe: Schoolchildren wear traditional headbands.Pride of the tribe: Schoolchildren wear traditional headbands. (JP/Sharon Karyasa)

We visited a school and saw the children proudly adorned in traditional hats. Our nephew explained that the headband is called tali bonto for girls and siga for boys. The children are told historical stories about the significance of tali bonto and siga. The cloth symbolizes greatness and appreciation for their ancestral Kaili Tribe.

The Kaili Tribe has no religious boundaries. All students regardless of religious persuasion wear the headdress, united in diversity of the predominately Muslim, Christian and Hindu faiths.

The harmonious blend of culture was also evident in the religious shrines I noticed in the district, such as a traditional Balinese entry to a Protestant church.

Cultural blend: A traditional Balinese gate at a Protestant church shows the different cultures existing in harmony in Tobe, Central Sulawesi.Cultural blend: A traditional Balinese gate at a Protestant church shows the different cultures existing in harmony in Tobe, Central Sulawesi. (JP/Sharon Karyasa)

The remainder of our road trip did not disappoint. Breathtaking mountain ranges, picture perfect villages with picket fences, rice fields, stretches of white beaches and empty food stalls and restaurants.

I ate lunch overlooking ocean views with a panorama that reminded me of vistas I had witnessed, what seemed like a lifetime ago, on the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

Our road trip on the mainland of Central Sulawesi ended up at the coastal port of Ampana, where we sailed across to the Togean Islands for our island retreat. Joining a group of adventurous travelers who were mostly Europeans we were back on the tourist trail.

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